Richard Whincup should be an inspiration to Valkyries players for their hurdles he has overcome to become their new kicking coach.
Until he was in his late teens Whincup struggled to communicate without the use of cue cards because of his severe stammer. Having enrolled on the McGuire Programme, which uses speech coaches to improve confidence, Whincup no longer stutters and uses his new-found confidence to inspire others.
So much so that Whincup now has the confidence to coach rugby to adults and children and to lecture in sports business management at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire where his students do not always believe that he once had to resort to cue cards when buying basic essentials.
“It’s something that I have worked very hard on. One of my students googled me during a lecture and said: is this for real?” Whincup said.
“They had no idea about my stammer. The student said that she would never have known which is the biggest compliment that you could get from where I once was, struggling to get words out, to being fairly eloquent and fluent.
“As a rugby coach you have to be very particular and you have to build relationships with players and you need your voice for that.
“Until I went to university at 19 there were times when I just wasn’t able to say anything. I was once asked to get off a bus because I couldn’t ask for my fare.
“So I resorted to carrying around cue cards with things like: where is the Marmite please which I would show to the shopkeeper.
“That was my coping mechanism. Rather than standing there a stammering wreck it was far easier for everybody if I just showed them my cards.
“Some might argue that it’s not a very dignified way to go about your life but it was a lot easier than stammering and not being able to get anything out.”
Enrolling on the McGuire programme changed Whincup’s life and he now takes great pleasure out of doing some of the simple things that his stammer previously prevented.
“I joined the McGuire Programme at 19 and I haven’t looked back since. It has changed my life because the old version of me would never have been able to do anything like this,” Whincup said.
“The programme teaches you various techniques of how to control your speech. They coach you in the speaking process from base level upwards and then, when you have a decent handle on the technique, you are challenged to go out into the street and ask for various things.
“I’ve always been outgoing and always loved playing rugby but I would never have been able to coach or be a lecturer. I used to be worried about reading bedtime stories to my kids, now it’s something that I really enjoy.
“Now I speak at conferences and do after-dinner speeches. But but I still get a kick out of little things like going a post office and buying a stamp. People must wonder what is wrong with me when I smile having bought a stamp but it was one of those things that I couldn’t for the first 19 years of my life. It makes you appreciate the little things.”
Whincup, who played for Stow, Camp Hill, Moseley and Cirencester in various positions and who still turns out occasionally as a prop for Tewkesbury, coached Gloucester-Hartpury before moving Tyrrells Premier 15s clubs when he joined Valkyries early in the New Year.
“I’m loving it at Sixways. It’s a nice place to be, it’s a one-club environment and the people are very friendly. It’s the best move I could have made, it fits with my philosophy of being inclusive and player-centred,” Whincup said.